Here the mundane is not belabored, but we promise a writer's heart and soul. Check out the latest from Sandtrap in the Heart of Jawja, a place that never was but oughta be. Or, "I'm a man of great convictions, but never served time." That's paraprosdokian; find more at the "Paradoke Corner." The section called "Silly Poems" may make you chuckle or bring a smile. Content is added regularly. Thanks for your visit, and y'all come back now, ya' hear? To get started click the "Contents" tab above or links to individual articles in the right column.

"Phil Comer, on his 'All Write by Me' blog... Definitely worth a look-see." Chuck Sambuchino, Editor, Guide to Literary Agents, Writer’s Digest Books.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

LOVEY DIALS THE DEAD by Phil Comer (October 11, 2008)

Lovey is a first-cousin, fourteen years my senior. Neither of us is old. She's a sister I never had, a petite Southern Belle, no bigger than a buttercup, as resilient as a Phi Mu in Rush.

Camellias Bloom All Winter in Sandtrap, Jawja

I was her pet, trailed her like a puppy. One of my earliest memories is her wedding. I scattered camellia petals down the aisle for her to walk on.

For reasons unfathomable to those not born of the South, I still have the land line phone number from our grandparents' Avalon Avenue homeplace. "Homeplace," one word, not two for our extended family.

That house was a high-ceilinged ramshackle Victorian affair long gone in a neighborhood fallen to urban blight. Today that same number rings in Sandtrap, generations of voices now departed.

Recently a mutual cousin intimated that Lovey might be losing it, talking out of her head. This I rejected outright. Impossible, not our Lovey. When next Lovey called, she sounded fine.

"I told you so," I reassured myself.

But then she asked to speak to Aunt Lilly, our beloved aunt, last matriarch of the big house on Avalon Avenue, twenty-five years dead.

I faltered.

Lovey chirped, "This IS the number I dialed?" Then she asked to speak with my mother, dead nearly as long.

I was dumbfounded into silence.

She said, "Well, Dusty, if they're not home, I guess I'll talk to you. How's everything up at the house?"

I tried redirection. I inquired about her husband Frank, her children and grandchildren. She was lucid, florid, effusive in detail.

My sigh of relief became a soft gulp when Lovey pressed, "Did Aunt Lilly die?"

I stammered, "She's... no longer with us."

Lovey gasped, "But, I didn't see anything in the papers!"

"It was a long time ago."

She paused, "Was I at the funeral?"

"We all were."

Lovey was quiet before admitting her mind has been "acting up."

I said, "At times I forget where I park the pickup." No comparison but Lovey laughed.

Lovey said, "Sometimes Frank looks at me like I don't have a lick of sense."

I said, "Why don't you slap him?"

She laughed again. Lovey's so diminutive her blow would do no harm.

I told her I loved her and was happy hearing her voice.

She said, "I'm glad I caught you at the homeplace. Tell the folks I was asking after them."

I said I would.

Lovey's problems were undeniable. I had a good cry.

I dialed her daughter Charlotte and was hesitant to bring up the reason for my call.

Charlotte shared concerns of her own. Lovey had called looking for her mother's phone number, my Aunt Emma, almost fifteen years dead. Charlotte wasn't sure why Lovey needed the number but found it in an old address book.

Charlotte thought nothing about it until days later when Lovey reported that her mother must be mad at her because she wasn't picking up the phone. Later, the robotic voice blocking her calls caused Lovey further distress.

Charlotte has tried to get Lovey to a doctor, but she refuses to go. Her next scheduled appointment isn't for months.

When I related my call, Charlotte went to check on her mother. Her father Frank had gone to bed, but Lovey was sitting on the living room floor distraught. She was sobbing because someone had told her Aunt Lilly was dead. She couldn't remember who.

She demanded of Charlotte, "Did you know Aunt Lilly had died?"

"Yes, Mama. I knew."

"Why don't people tell me these things?" Lovey wailed.

People with dementia can't process grief. They forget sorrows already mourned and grieve anew.

Lovey's husband Frank is in denial. I can't say that I blame him.

The phone rang in the early evening a week or so later; Lovey's number flashed on caller-ID.

Again she gushed, "Aunt Lilly?"

I said, "Hello, Lovey. This is Dusty."

"Oh, Dusty. I'm so grateful I caught you. Is Mother or Daddy up at the house? Are they there?"

"The house" on Avalon Avenue. Her "Mother" my Aunt Emma, dead since '97, "Daddy" my Uncle Buster died before that.

She said, "I'm holding supper. They're never late."

Biding time I asked, "Have you talked to Charlotte?"

Lovey snapped, "You know perfectly well they're not over there!"

She had me. I too began to wonder where they might be and why so late for dinner?

I said, "Well, they're not here. I'm sure they'll turn up."

"But, they never miss a meal. I'm starting to worry."

"Don't. They're fine. Go ahead and eat."

She asked, "How's Aunt Lilly and the folks?"

I'd learned my lesson, "As well as can be expected."

She said, "I thought maybe they lost track of time visiting out on the front porch."

I choked up. The family did that often. One of their old porch rockers gets frequent use in front of our TV.

I said, "It's too cold to sit out."

She said, "Thank heavens it's cooling off. I do despise the wilting heat of summer."

I pictured Lovey in espadrilles, Capri pants, flowered silk blouse, sunglasses and a broad white sunhat dabbing her brow with a perfumed hanky.

"Me, too," I concurred, near normal chat. "The leaves are turning. Real pretty right now."

"You should see the ginkgo outside my kitchen window. Leaves yellow as sunshine."

Ginkgo biloba berries are reputed to stave off memory loss. Why can't those golden boughs reach inside and help Lovey?

I asked, "How's Frank?" her husband of thirty-five years.

She stage-whispered, "Not well at all. Thinks I haven't got a lick of sense."

I admonished, "You two be good to each other." Lovey's a super cook. I asked, "What's for supper?"

She rattled a spoon against a pot, "Fried okra. Butterbeans. Biscuits," -- Lovey's tea-biscuits, so light and tiny you wonder what holds them on the plate -- "and gravy. Made gravy to go with something... Can't remember what." I heard the oven door open and close. "Mother and Daddy are never this late. What am I supposed to do?"

I lied, "Everything's fine, Lovey. You and Frank go ahead and eat."

She said, "I suppose we might as well."

I told her I loved her. She said she loved me, and we hung up.

That conversation was easier. I too pretended our loved ones were rocking on the porch awaiting supper. It felt comfortable. I too heard their muffled voices, the creak of the chairs.

Next evening I was out when Lovey called, again dialing Avalon Avenue.

Her distressed voice panted in response to the beep, "Dusty, this is Lovey. Frank and I rode over that way to check on things. Didn't see hide or hair of Mother and Daddy. I don't like to know that they're out this time of night. Daddy doesn't see well. Mother doesn't either."

Lovey took a deep breath and turned on the syrupy charm that's extricated her from many a difficult situation.

She said, "Anyhow, I'm gon' check on 'em again. Tell everybody up at the house I send my love. And, if anybody hears from Mother and Daddy, for goodness sakes have 'em call me! Bye-bye, now."

I pray she hasn't gone looking for the old neighborhood. Today's Avalon Avenue is the epicenter for carjackings, crack, street pimps and whores.

Small mercy that a familiar voice answers when Lovey dials the dead. Does my "performance" aid and abet her dementia? Should I insist Lovey "think straight" and remind her a generation has passed?

Odd that this ancient telephone number survives among her fading memories. As shadows further envelope twilight, Lovey will recall neither it nor the kindred spirit that answers still.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
[Names changed. First place winner, nonfiction, Southeastern Writers Association.]

Sad addendum: Lovey succumbed to the inexorable grasp of Alzheimer's. She died in hospice December 9, 2012, too beautiful and too young, and just short of the end of the Mayan Calendar.

Now for a "pick me up" click here for a smile!

Up next in the Heart of Jawja:  
“Stigmata Are Easy,” a flashback on love and commitment.  (Go!)

© Phil Comer
Disclaimer: characters and events are none you or I know. Thanks for reading.

Text is copyright material of the author. Photo by Robert Apsley. Unless stated otherwise, links are for information and not the property of the author. 


  1. Thanks, Debbie. I know you went there with your father.

  2. I love this. You made me laugh and cry in two minutes flat...thank you. xo, L

  3. Gosh, Lauren, hope it didn't hurt! Thanks for sharing. Aren't emotions wonderful? All best, Phil

  4. Phil, this is a beautiful summation of the descent into dementia. So poinient that I am relunctent to pass this on to family and friends who are currently living this! Well done.

  5. The evil pain of dementia has touched almost all of us. I too am reluctant to share.